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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  July 13, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

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they're just not. they're earmarks in the tax code. there are special benefits in which ordinary americans usually don't share, and we shouldn't put the special interests first ahead ordinary americans who did not get special tax deals. but, as important as all of that is in the short term, there are some things that are more important in the long term than our debt limit, and i rise to speak about one. in april of this year, a group of scientific experts came together to discuss an issue whose consequences will influence the planet and our american society for generations to come. they met at the university of oxford to discuss the current state and eventual fate of our oceans. the ocean, as stated in the workshop summary report, is the largest ecosystem on earth,
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supports us and maintains our world in a habitable condition. for three days, 27 scientists representing 18 prominent research and conservation organizations worldwide reviewed the latest findings on ocean stresses, and in particular the consequences of multiple combined stresses for marine life and for the human population. the scientists found that stressors in combination magnify the negative effect of each one occurring alone. based on this determination, the scientists at this meeting concluded that we have underestimated the overall risks and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts and that
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degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted. in short, things for the ocean are worse than we thought and getting worse faster than we expected. all too often, we take for granted the fact that our oceans feed us, support our coastal communities and drive many of our tourism economies. unfortunately, these ocean ecosystems are severely stressed from nutrient pollution, chemical dumping, overfishing, marine debris, invasions of exotic species, warming waters and perhaps most alarming a drop in ocean p.h. levels to levels not seen for more than 8,000 centuries. the acidification of our oceans. individually, these stressors would be cause for concern. in combination with each other, this expert group of scientists
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concluded they are driving our ocean toward the brink of a mass extinction and ecosystem collapse. one example of the multiplier effects on marine life comes from plastic debris and toxic chemicals. plastics make their way as trash into the ocean where they break down into small particles that are consumed by marine life like sea turtles, sea birds and even microscopic plankton. the consumption of that plastic alone becomes fatal for marine life when they consume so much of that indigestible material that they stop eating altogether and starve to death with bellies full of plastic. but the surfaces of those plastic particles also easily absorb chemical pollutants, so they amplify the load of chemical pollution on these
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creatures. the levels of chemical pollution are themselves on the rise, in even the most remote seas where no human development exists. many of these chemical pollutants like flame retardants and floor natured compounds are poured down home sinks or excelled as waste from industrial facilities directly into the ocean. plants and animals have not evolved ways to break down these new man made synthetic compounds, so they do what is called bioaccumulate, meaning they become increasingly concentrated as they are passed up the food chain or passed in marine mammals from mothers to calves in their milk from generation to generation. until many of our top oceanic predators, many of our most
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majestic ocean creatures are now literally swimming toxic waste. another example of what the scientists call this negatively synergistic environmental harm is the combination of destructive fishing practices, nutrient runoff and the presence of hormone-disrupting pharmaceuticals in our waste water on coral reefs. these unusually precious ecosystems are coral reefs known as the rain forests of the sea, do not just have to contend with overfishing, nutrient loading and wastewater pollution. now the reefs like the mangroves , salt marsh estuaries and sea grass meadows in their damaged and less resilient state must also face a rapidly
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changing climate and its dual effects of ocean warming and ocean acid if i occasion. -- acidification. coral reefs are more likely to bleach out when exposed to temperature and acidification than if they are exposed to either condition separately. you add both of those conditions to those pre-existing stressors and 35% of the world's ocean reefs are classified as in a critical or threatened stage. scientific projections indicate that without urgent action, coral reef ecosystems could be eliminated on our planet in 30-50 years. the decline and ultimate death of coral reefs, the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, dramatically impairs the reproduction and development of hundreds of other species that call those reefs home.
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when a reef ecosystem collapses and does not recover, it quickly becomes dominated by algae and the phenomenal biodiversity, once present disappears. for human society, this is accompanied by a loss of food, a loss of income and damage to the billion dollar per year tourist industries that surround our ocean reefs. this workshop report that i am discussing echoes the overwhelming body of peer- peer-reviewed science and literature on climate change and carbon pollution, stating that, and i quote -- "human actions have resulted in warming and acidification of the oceans and are now causing increased hypoxia. hypoxia is lack of oxygen.
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the report continues -- "studies of the earth's past indicate that these are the three symptoms associated with each of the previous five mass extinctions on earth. we're now talking about changes on our planet in our lifetimes whose precedents are only be found in geologic time. i have often said on this floor how we have veered outside of the bandwidth of carbon concentration that has prevailed on our planet for 800,000 years. for the first time, we're outside of a bandwidth in which our species has lived for 800,000 years. but this comparison is to mass ocean extinction events 55 and
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251 million years ago. back then, the rates of carbon entering the atmosphere in the leadup to those great extinctions are now estimated to have been 2.1 and one to two gigatons of carbon per year respectively over several thousand years. but as this new report identifies, both of these estimates are dwarfed in comparison to today's emissions of roughly 30 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year. so just to go back over that, the two great mass extinctions 55 million years ago and 251 million years ago were led up to by rates of carbon added
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to the atmosphere at 2.2 and one to two gigatons per year and over thousands of years, and now we are today emitting roughly 30 gigatons of carbon die okay identify per year. such a massive dumping of carbon pollution into our atmosphere creates the real prospect of devastating damage to our oceans, and in fact we may already be witnessing this devastation. in one breath-taking part of the report, the scientists remark that, and i quote -- "the speeds of many negative changes to the ocean are near to or are tracking the worst-case scenarios from the ipcc and other predictions." end quote. the ipcc or the intergovernmental panel on climate change created several
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scenarios predicting how the earth's natural systems could respond to the ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide we dump into our atmosphere. this report says that observations now are worse than the ipcc's worst-case prediction scenarios. those predictions of the ipcc have received a lot of special interest sponsored mockery on this floor, but these aren't predictions now. these are observations. for instance, the decrease in arctic sea ice cover and the melting of the greenland and antarctic ice sheets which hold enough water to raise sea levels by more than 200 feet are actually occurring, and faster than expected.
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correspondingly, sea levels are rising. the report also observes acidification is occurring, faster than in the past 55 million years. and with the added man made stressors of overfishing and pollution undermining ocean resilience. end quote. these observations are sobering. not only are the changes great but they are happening so quickly that marine life cannot adapt. numerically, the average ocean p.h. has decreased from 8.2 to 8.1 since the industrialized revolution. that seems like a small change unless you understand the p.h.
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scale. the p.h. scale is logarithmic, so that change is profound. if that same amount of change in p.h. occurred in our blood, we could suffer respiratory or kidney failure. it is not difficult to imagine how this change has huge consequences for marine life and especially for the calcifying organisms like coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, which as the ocean acidifies become increasingly soluble in their environment. species do not do well when they are soluble in their environment. if this unprecedented rate of change in ocean p.h. continues, it could mean an almost 200% decrease by mid century. so it is really not an exaggeration to say that we are
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on the verge of an ecosystem collapse that we could see happen in a single generation. although mass extinction events have occurred in the past, workshop participants state that comparing the current environmental change with these events is difficult because the rates of environmental change are unprecedented. the rates now of environmental change are unprecedented. the report continues, "it is therefore difficult to predict what the outcome of the current anthroprogenic experiment will be." translated out of sciencese, it is therefore difficult to predict what the outcome of this experiment we are conducting on ourselves as a species on this planet will be.
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however, the report continues, "it can be said that we are pushing the earth system to its limits." the workshop participants concludeed -- "unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean." and again, when they say "the next," they mean in geologic, and they're referring back to events that happened 251 million years ago. so what will we do? this is not the first report to state with certainty that our oceans and, thus, our ocean-dependent populations and economies, are in serious
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jeopardy. in 2003, the pew ocean commission report led off with the following: "america's oceans are in crisis, and the stakes could not be higher." in 2004, the u.s. commission on ocean policy, as mandated by congress in the oceans act of 2000, published their final report and pronounced the importance of our oceans' coasts and great lakes cannot be overstated. they are critical to the very existence and well-being of the nation and its people. yet, as the 21st century dawns, it is clear that these invaluable and life-sustaining assets are vulnerable to the activities of humans.
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nearly two centuries ago, the poet byron could write, "roll on thou deep and dark blue ocean roll. 10,000 fleets sweep over thee in vain. man marks the earth with ruin. his control stops with the sho shore." well, no more. now in 2011 this international group of scientists reminds us that we are now marking the oceans with ruin. and that the human interactions with the ocean must change, to quote their report, to a sustainable management of all activities that impinge marine
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ecosystems. mr. president, we must work together to presearchedz protect the ocean -- to preserve and protect the ocean ecosystems we rely on so heavily for we, too, are greater than the sum of our parts. in a bipartisan effort, senator snowe and i have introduced the national endowment for the oceans to provide dedicated funding for ocean and coastal research, restoration, protection, and conservation. too often the knowledge and the information that we need to better protect and understand these ecosystems comes too late or comes not at all. we hope to change that. together, we can still turn the tide to protect our ocean and our society, but if we are to have any chance, we must act soon, and we must make progress quickly. i look forward to working with
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my colleagues to confront these looming challenges. i thank the president. i yield the floor, and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i ask that the pending quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: wows. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i have eight unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed
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in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. coats: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent for vitiation of the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from indiana is
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recognized. mr. coats: mr. president, i am somewhat unique position as a returning senator after having been away for 12 years. i've never contemplated rerunning for the senate or being back on this floor in any capacity except a former senat senator, so i have had a chance to kind of do it over, i guess best phrase, and assess what is really important and why i'm really here. i really only ran for one reason, my deep concern about the direction of our country and our deep plunge into deficit and debt. i've tried to avoid coming here and assessing blame. i think if we can set aside who is responsible or who isn't responsible or the politics of all this and just simply recognize that this is the
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situation that we face. and this situation that we face has potentially dire consequences for the future of this country, not just for, as we say, our children and grandchildren, but even this generation. our economy is not in good sha shape. we have not recovered from one of the deepest recessions ever since the great depression. there are a lot of people out of work. the official number i think's 9.2, the real number is probably much higher than that because a lot of people have either given up looking for work or they've extended their time in school because they know if they graduate and get out into the job market, they're not going to be able to find a job, particularly in the areas that they're trained for, or perhaps in any area. a lot of people that just have tried and tried and tried and simply cannot find work. it's clear, and i think there is a consensus -- if not total consensus at least pretty close to total consensus -- that we
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simply have run out of money. as a government, we've made promises to people that we can no longer afford to pay and fulfill, at least at 100%, or we're moving very quickly toward that. that we have enjoyed a lot of largess, a lot of prosperity, as a result a lot of commitments have been made for spending in a whole range of -- of -- running the course from discretionary programs, building highways, building sewer systems, doing a lot of good things but also things that we just simply no longer can afford. and we see this happening across the world. we've been in about a 60-year spurt or commitment to credit and now we've run out of ability to pay for all that. so whether it's southern europe, whether it's other parts of the
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world or whether it's the united states, we find ourselves in a very difficult situation. now, for the last six or seven months, a lot of us, most of us here have worked very, very hard to try to find a solution to this and we're now in the month of july and we're approaching a time when we reach our debt limit, we no longer can continue to borrow without raising that limit. about 40%-some, about 40%, 42% of everything we spend now has to be borrowed to pay for it. that's unsustainable. we're told that basic problems to help the senior citizens of our country enjoy a productive rest of their life, whether it's their medical payments under medicare, those on lower income, medicaid payments, or social security payments, that those funds are drying up and it won't be all that long before either
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benefits has to be cut -- have to be cut or perhaps the programs become insolvent. no one here wants to see that happen. what we do want to see happen, though, are necessary steps to preserve those programs for the future. this crisis is real. it's coming down all over the world. we're watching it take place as it creeps through different countries. we are facing that, whether it's a liberal economist or a conservative economist or anybody inbetween or someone with no political potential gain or loss by -- by assessing these kind of things have basically said you've got to take action and you need to take it now. you can't postpone t. the longer you postpone it -- and, by the way, you've been doing it for years. we all knew this baby boom was -- baby boomers were going to retire and put tremendous pressure on our budget. that's exactly what is happeni happening. the quicker we do it, the less
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painful it will be but it's going to be painful because we've put it off for so long. now, what disturbs me here is that after six or seven months of sincere effort by a lot of people -- and this is not just republican/democrat. we're doing it, you aren't. you're doing, we aren't. this is people who genuinely have a concern about the future of this country and feel that we need to address these issues. as painful as they are. and it goes against our political instincts of preparing ourselves and positioning ourselves for reelection, whether it is 2012 or beyond. i said from the beginning, unless we find a way to transcend the political, transcend 2012, transcend positioning our self for success in 2012 -- well, wait until we get the next president. we got to get the next president, have a different congress, make the republicans take over here in the senate and hold the house and so forth --
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the closer we get to the crisis, the more we're positioning our self for failure, and so that we're not blamed for the failu failure. and the reason we came here was not to position our self so that politically we can succeed in the next election. the reason we came here was to deal with the problem that's in front of us right now. and needs to be addressed right now. what is the rough consensus? the rough consensus is that we don't have at least over the next ten years, $4 trillion to $6 trillion of cuts in discretionary spending and some of the mandatory programs, we're not going to have a credible program that the financial world will look at and say, you can still trust in the value of the dollar, you can still see america as a safe haven to place your investments, and you can have an economy that is moving forward and providing jobs for people. it also -- there's a consensus
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that unless we make structural changes, not just cut cuts and s and little slices here and there, unless we make changes in the entitlement programs, they will not be solvent in the years ahead and we will have to turn to those seniors and beneficiaries and low-income people and say, sorry, we just simply can't pay what you we'd committed to pay you. your benefits are going to have to be lower or we're going to have to raise taxes to pay for t and without comprehensive tax reform, you're not going to have the kind of package you need in order to guarantee or to at least make the best assurance that you will have a dynamic, growing economic which can solve some of our problems here. it is not just cutting, it is not just -- it is a combination. what's - disturbing to me lately is that we have shifted away
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from the central focus and now are focusing on whos who's goino take the blame when quey default or don't default on august 2? and a lot of political posturing around here. it is not about corporate jets tansdz not about -- and it is not about a number of things that have -- it is not about all these ads out there and mailings so forth going out, congress is going to take away your social security benefits, exong is going to slash your -- congress is going to slash your medicare benefits. i guess what i'm asking for is that we acknowledge the reality of the situation that we're in, that we do our very best effort to put this above the politics of 2012 and work to find some sensible solution to all this. a comprehensive tax reform can potentially, i believe, provide a way to address the need for
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revenue and the need for growth. as we know, there are multiple hundreds, if not thousands, of special expenditures, exemptions, subsidies, credits in the tax code that were put in for the few and not the many. that have complicated our tax code to the point where no one can understand it except someone with an advanced degree in accounting or law; that provide all kinds of special-interest subsidies but yet which do not support the needed growth that we have to have. and so tax reform, as a part of whatever program we finally come up with, i believe is essential. senator wyden and i, on a bipartisan basis, a democrat from oregon, a republican from
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indiana, have put together a provision. we don't call it perfect. we're open to suggestion. but what it does is it eliminates those special exemptions and uses the revenues from that to lower the tax rates on our corporations. we pay the highest tax rate of every one of our competitors except one around the world. there's about 36 that compete around the world to sell their products in the world. and we're 35th out of 36. we want to get us down to a level playing field with the rest of them because we think we can outcompete and beat them andal in andthat'll be a signif, positive impact on our economy. so using those revenues as a way to have addressing some of the needs we have here is certainly something we ought to be exploring. lastly, let me just say, we need to focus on the reality of the situation in a personal way because we just get caught up in numbers, and we get caught up in
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generalities. what are we trying to do? we are trying to get this economy moving again so that people who have been searching for work for two and three years can get a job back, so that young couples have the opportunity to buy a home in which to raise their family, so that parents who are saving and trying to get their children into good schools for post-graduate education or postsecondary education have the ability to do that, so that college graduates and graduate school graduates can come out of school with a degree and find a place to work and begin a care career, so that people who are really hurting have an opportunity to bring income in so that they don't have to be in a situation where they are real estate on th -- where they're oe dole. we owe it to the people of our country that are suffering right now shall dinow -- and there ar.
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we owe it to this nation which has provided so much opportunity and so much prosperity for so many people. no country in the world in our history has come close to what america has achieved. we owe it to our children and our grandchildren who will inherit what we have done or not done. and the reality is, we are loading and transferring a debtload on our children and future general rappings that they may not be able to -- and future generations that they may not be able to overcome. i don't want to leave that legacy. i don't want to be part of a generation in a doe that does t. but we have to recognize that we're hurting now, as well as going to be hurting in the future. and so it's time, i think, for us to stand up and do what is necessary to address this problem. you know, my mail is running 100-1 in favor of cutting government, cutting government spending, and it's running 100-1
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against cutting anything in social security or medicare or touching that. and it's running against all kinds of other programs -- and i have people coming in my office every day circumstance you know, we've got to get our fiscal house in order, but let kneel you why our program needs to be exempted. and so we're used to -- as want to as politicians say "yes" to people. as responsible, elected officials faced with a very, very difficult situation, we have to, with compassion, look at people and say, no, we're not able to do this we're not able to afford this. but we're taking this action so that we can in the future. we're taking this action so that we can leave future general rations with the -- generations with the same types of opportunities that our generation has enjoyed and the
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benefits that come from living in america. that may cost some people their elections. there are a number of people here who are willing to sacrifice thor tha for that pur. do we want to leave and say, well, i survived all these years politically? pretty clever, huh? or do we want to leave saying, at the right time, we did the right thing, at the time of crisis, at the time when our country desperately needed for us to come together to address this very serious problem that could plunge our country into a deep, deep recession, if not depression, where the world is -- where financial institutions around the world are fragile, where we're looking at some really serious stuff, and that doesn't get into the national security issue, as wars and conflicts are popping up all over the globe. what do we want our legacy to be, regardless of what the consequences? we're two, three weeks away from
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dwawlgt odefaulting on our debt. a lot of excuses around here about that won't repeally have that come consequences. it will. i think if we put and pu keep or focus on the fact that default or not default, we still have a major problem. just simply finding a way to get through this thing and raise the debt limit does not solve the underlying problem. that has to be addressed. i wish we had been able to do that because the situation is dire. we can't wait until 12013. weefnedz twe need to do it now. so here i am. i don't have answers. i have some guidelines from people who know a lot more about this than i do. people who don't have a political stake in this, in
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terms of what they think we need to do to put together a package that has credibility with the financial world so that what has happened in greece and maybe in portugal and in ireland and maybe now in italy, maybespain, maybe in europe, -- maybe in spain, maybe in europe, maybe in other places, will not happen here, because we've restored some faith in the american people, in the investment communities in the united states and across the world which see the united states as a safe haven for their money, put some credibility in our program here that we have seen the problem, we have recognize niced it we have taken meaningful -- we have recognize niced it, we have taken meaningfulfulsfulfuls sted while it will take a while to get there america will come through. it was winston churchill who says, america does all the wrongs things before ultimately it does the right thing. we spent a lot of years doing
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the wrong things here, not recognizing this we were building up a fiscal situation which would be unsustainable and that our debt would come back to haunt us. we've tried a lot of methods and postponements and deferments and everything else. what we haven't done is really stand up to the problem that we have, do what is necessary, take this above politics, do what's right for america. mr. president, with that, i would ask unanimous consent that carlos algara, an intern in the office of senator merkley shall, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: and, with that, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. begich: mr. president, i
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rise to speak briefly about the progress in the nation of croatia, which i was honored to visit recently. at the invitation of the croatian minister of defense, i participated in what is known as the croatian summit, a gathering of leaders from eastern europe. the theme of this year's summit was "a new decade for southeast europe: finalizing the transition." less than 15 years ago after a terrible ethnic -- less than 15 years after a terrible ethnic war had devastated croatia, the nation is making enormous progress. it is rapidly making a transition to a market-based economy and its government leaders are committed to a strong and lasting partnership with the united states. they are a great partner of ours in afghanistan and in other trouble spots across the globe. that's personally important to me because 100 years ago this
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year my grandfather immigrated from crow shay to this country, john begich. then it was spelled p-e-c-g-i-c. he left his farmer and eventually settled in northern minnesota in the iron range. he and his young bride anna had four children, their youngest nikolas, made his way to america's new frontier, alaska, even before we were a staivment he was my father. nick was an educator and eventually was elected alaska's lone member of the united states house of representatives in 1970. i'm honored to follow in his footsteps as a member of the senate, where i'm the only member of croatian dissent. my recent visit was my first to croatia. i was honored to represent the
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body at the summit along with officials from the state department and u.s. embassy. i was impressed by the great progress under way there as well as the excellent job being performed by our embassy personnel. there are enormous opportunities for partnership between the united states and croatia and i may just pursue those. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that my remarks at the croatian summit be printed in the "congressional record" to document my participation in the summit and the strong partnership between our nations. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. begich: mr. president, i want to say thank you for the opportunity to put on the record my experiences being in croatia this last weekend and again seeing a country after 15 years ago going through incredible devastation to where they are today. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina.
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mrs. hagan: mr. president, i rise -- the presiding officer: senator, we are in a quorum call. mrs. hagan: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: thank you. thank you, mr. president. i rise today to report to the senate on the completion of my north carolina budget listening tour. while people in this town were mired in political gamesmanship that seems to be pushing parties farther apart, i wanted to hear directly from community leaders and business leaders in north carolina about how they think we should be approaching the responsibility that we have to reduce our deficit and our debt. i held listening sessions all over the state from raleigh to greensboro and charlotte to wilmington, and i heard from north carolinians of every kind, small business owners, health care workers, veterans, entrepreneurs and more. and the message i heard could not have been more different from the partisan bickering in
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washington that's dominating the airwaves. in washington, we see negotiators walking away from the table, refusing any and all compromise, putting politics ahead of what's best for the american people. in north carolina, people were coming to the table and putting party aside for commonsense solutions to meet our shared budget obligations. to me, the message was crystal clear. washington needs to take a lesson from north carolina. it's far past time to put partisanship aside and do what's right for the american people. at the charlotte listening session, i heard from the executive director of the health care nonprofit responsible for caring for the elderly. she told me about important ways that we can reduce health care costs and save lives, like expanding access to preventive car for seniors to reduce the onset of expensive chronic
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diseases. and gala woody, director of aging at the central council of governments, told me the story of how one of her clients, a man caring for his wife with alzheimer's, was able to continue to care for her at their home, thanks to the comparatively small investments made in the family caregiver program rather than a more expensive nursing home. but they both also told me that we cannot afford an extreme plan to turn medicare into a voucher program for vulnerable seniors. balancing the budget on their backs is not a solution that i can support. i also heard from small business owners, economic development coordinators and community bankers at our wilmington and raleigh tour stops. they told me about how washington's partisan paralysis is preventing them from having the sort of certainty that they need to be able to make the hard decisions to invest in their
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businesses and to grow jobs in this economy for their companies. if these businesses don't know whether they ought to be investing in new equipment or new employees, then we're not going to be able to sustain the economic growth that's a necessary component to reducing our deficit and our debt. i also heard from a veteran of the u.s. marine corps and current chaplain for the onslow county special eubs dense -- incidence response team. this dedicated public servant talked about the importance of protecting services for our veterans, and i will fight for them just as hard as they have fought for us. but he also talked to me about the importance of priorities. he said that we ought to keep our promises to those who sacrificed for us: our seniors and our veterans. but we also need to invest in our children and their education. it was important for the future
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that he believed, and i agree he was right. now, while the challenge of reducing our deficit may appear daunting, i don't believe that meeting it is impossible if washington takes to the heart the message that i heard all over north carolina last month. both sides, democrats and republicans, need to put aside partisanship and come to an agreement that is bipartisan and balanced, one that includes a shared sacrifice. but also fulfills the sacred promises made to our seniors and our veterans and makes the critical investments necessary for a prosperous american future. and above all else, they do not want us to continue kicking the can down the road one more time. they sent us here to make hard decisions. putting them off to resolve during some future crisis is simply not an option.
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these broad goals and values are widely shared across party lines, and i recognize that turning them into a bipartisan balanced solution to our fiscal challenges will not be easy. but the consequences of failing to do so are simply too great to ignore. thank you, mr. president, and i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i come to the floor today of the united states senate specifically as a senator from wyoming. because in wyoming, our families know they have to live within their means and wyoming is a state where our state lives within its means. in wyoming, our very constitution requires that our state lives within its means. washington has a total debt now that is over $14 trillion and continues to climb every day. wyoming's total debt is zero. how did washington fail where wyoming succeeded? well, in washington, this city overspends. and you know in washington, there is nothing really to stop it. in wyoming, we live within our means because our constitution demands that we balance our budget every year. it is time for washington to take a lesson from wyoming and the other states that balance
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their budgets every year. you know, the president says that -- and he said, quote, he said, "all of us agree that we should use this opportunity to do something meaningful on debt and deficits." well, passing a balanced budget amendment to the constitution is possibly the most meaningful thing that we could do. this city's finances are in disarray. our nation's finances are in disarray. and it's been over 800 days since this body has passed a budget resolution. since the last time a full budget was passed, our country has spent over $7 trillion. $3.2 trillion of that money was money we do not have. our total debt now, over $14 trillion. people say, how much money is that? the number is astonishingly large. well, let's try to put it a little bit into perspective.
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every day washington borrows over $4 billion. borrowed over $4 billion yesterday. we're $4 billion today. and if someone will lend us the money, we will borrow over $4 billion tomorrow. that's over $2 million a minute every minute. well, every single day, washington borrows enough money to buy tens of thousands of new homes. every single hour, washington borrows enough to buy nearly 2 million barrels of oil. every single minute, washington borrows enough to send 53 students to private college for a full year. every single second, washington borrows enough to buy two new automobiles. we paid over $200 billion last year in interest on the debt alone. the president talks about a tax on private jets. that's enough money, the interest alone, to buy over 200 private jets every day.
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it's -- it's -- it's not enough to think about this in the large terms. you have to try to put it -- it into terms that people understand because we are spending and borrowing so much money, it is difficult to put it into -- into terms that -- that people grasp and that they see. you know, it's good to hear the president acknowledge that -- that we have to stop making more than the minimum payments in order to pay off and deal with this incredible debt. the -- the president's also signaled his willingness to make a deal, he said, that involves what he calls meaningful changes to medicare, to social security and to medicaid. and to his credit, the president has accepted that much of the problem was saving these problem -- these programs springs from his own side of the aisle. and he says, and i agree, now is the time to do it. the associated press quotes the president asking the most important question of all: if not now, when? well, the clock is ticking.
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in just 13 years, medicare will be bankrupt. mr. president, we have to strengthen medicare. in 25 years, the same will be true of social security. unlike our debt limit, this is not a limit that congress can simply legislate away. we have to act now to prevent these programs from failing not just today's generation but future generations. as the senate minority leader said, he said, i commend the president for putting social security and medicare on the table. he's correct in doing that. so with the president seeing the light on so many issues, why are we still talking about finding a solution instead of actually getting one passed here in the congress? because for all that he claims to understand, the president has still fallen back on the same tax-and-spend policies that made this economic situation worse. it is clear that the policies of
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this administration have taken a tough problem and they have made it worse. you know, on the president's inauguration day, unemployment rate in this country was just under 8%. today it's 9.2%. every american child who's born today will owe roughly $45,000. let's compare that to the day that president obama was inaugurated. every child born then owed roughly $35,000. so in just those short years, the debt on a child born in america, the debt that they are born with has gone up from $35,000 to $45,000. these disturbing economic results are the direct result of the past two years of policies. now liberals want to hold the united states credit rating hostage for more tax hikes and the president is leading the charge. he's trying to push more tax
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hikes despite the very fact that even he has now said it is the worst time to raise taxes. back in 2009, president obama said, "the last thing you want to do is raise taxes during a recession." so why, then, is he calling for $400 billion in tax increases today? and why is the senate budget committee chairman trying to one-up the president by calling for $2 trillion? well, of course, the president won't admit he wants to raise taxes. he likes to use wiggle words. he uses words revenue or spending in the tax code instead. but when you translate this washington doublespeak, it comes out higher taxes. so with the spin exposed, liberals are trying another ta tact. they're trying to claim that they'll delay the tax increases until the economy recovers. not saying they're not going to raise taxes. they say, well, let's just put
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it off for awhile. this week the president showed what this really means. he said -- quote -- "nobody's going to raise taxes right now." he said, "we're talking about potentially 2013 and the out-years." that's the end of his quote. so in other words, this isn't really about waiting until the recovery comes, the economic recovery, it's about waiting until 2013, until after the president's reelection campaign. more troubling still, the president has already signaled that he wants to spend more in the future. our problem is not that we're taxed tooly. it's that we spend too much and yet the president wants to spend even more. at his press conference, he said he's only tackling our debt so we can be -- quote -- "in a position to make the kind of investments," he said, "that i think are going to be necessary to win the future." when the president talks about investment, it's common knowledge what he's talking about is spending.
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now final licks for all this posturing about getting this done now, it is really the president who seems to want to kick the can down the road. his plan may cut trillions, but washington would be able to take as long as ten years to do it. the minority leader mcconnell has already blown the liberals' cover on these very cynical political bluffs. as he has said -- quote -- "the president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. well, republicans choose none of the above. as a doctor, i've taken the hippocratic oafnlg the oath says, "do no harm." i will tell you, mr. president, raising taxes will harm our economy. and culting spending -- and cutting spending at a nail snais pace will do very little to help. we have to tackle our fiscal
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problems today. the first steps toward solving these problems should be to pass an amendment to our constitution requiring washington to balance its budget. a balanced budget amendment would require washington to spend no more money than it takes in each and every year. such an amendment would force washington to live within its means, like many, many states do and like the families across the country do. so i come to the floor, mr. president, as cosponsor of the balanced budget amendment, as a as a matter of fact, every republican in this senate is a cosponsor of the balanced budget amendment. 47 republican senators, every one, a cosponsor of the balanced budget amendment. we are united and will remain a united, mr. president. this is a commonsense approach, and it will show the american people that they can trust their government with their money once again, because right now the american people have little
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confidence that they are getting value for the money that they send to washington. i believe, mr. president, that we need to lead today, not defer leadership until tomorrow. americans are courageous, they deserve a courageous government, and that's why i know the american people overwellcomingly support a balanced budget amendment -- overwhelmingly support a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. the president said the other day, he said, "it's time to eat our peas," he said. i agree with another president, president ronald reagan, who said "it's time to starve the beast." and the beast is washington, and the washington wasteful spending that the american people are seeing every day. mr. president, americans pay their debts, they want their country to do so, too. it is time for washington to listen.
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it is time for a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and then it is time to start paying off this massive, massive debt. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr mr. bennet: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. bennet: i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. bennet: thank you, madam president. like you you i have heard a lot of loose talk over the past few months invoking the founding fathers, loose talk to underscore an expedient argument about what they'd be doing if they were legislating today. but the way our founders are often used is as a caricature to distort history for the benefit of partisan and gnash row interests. to hear some people talk about it, madam president, you'd think the founders were engaged in a process of dismantling a country rather than building it. that version of events is not only wrong but also thoroughly diminishes the founding generations' extraordinary accomplishments ant the lessons we should draw from them. our founders met enormous challenges with great courage and sacrifice to start a country around an ideal. in the same vein, our modern history has been characterized by meeting great challenges with distinct qualities. we're hard working, we met our
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challenges by refusing to allow their complexity or attendant political difficulty to lead us toward accepting fail tour as an option. we're inclusive, we meet our challenges by meeting them as one, by craftin crafting solutit involve participation and sacrifice from all parts of the political landscape and the american people. we act with courage. we meet our great challenges when and only when the leaders of the day have the courage to decide that they will be the ones who meet those challenges, that they will transcend a short-term incentive and political imperatives of their time to do something of greater importance. these tax rates have enabled us to end a civil war, overcome the great depression, and march towards civil rights. but they've also allowed us to do smaller and still very important things like work together in the 1980's to protect and preserve social
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security. today that honorable past and the sacrifice it entailed has been hijacked to protect and defend narrow interest group politics and tax loopholes. our tax and regulatory code are backward-facing in a way that is straining our recession-battered middle class and failing to drive innovation in our economy. as a result, middle-class income continues to fawcialg the gap between rich and poor grows wider and all of us wait -- all of us wait for a 21st -- for a 20th century to produce 21st century jobs. that wait will be in vain. and, madam president, it will particularly be in vain for those of our citizens unlucky enough to be born poor and who, therefore, stand a .09 chance of ever graduating from college in the united states o in the year
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2011. that's because we've torn each other up so much because of the smallness we've exhibited in the face of what are big challenges. we now find our castes a crisis point without a politics capable even of addressing the kinds of challenges we face each year, yet alone a generational crisis like our deficit and debt. as you know, i've come to this floor for months arguing the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing our deficits ants debt. what colorado wants is nothing more than this -- than what this country has seen from past generations of leaders in pastimes of crisis. as i have said over and over again, what people in red parts of the state want and what people in blue parts of the state want is a solution that materially addresses the problem. they know we're not going to fix it all overnight. but they want it materially addressed. they want a demonstration that we're all in it together that everybody has something to contribute to solving the
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problem. they emphatically want it to be bipartisan, because they don't believe in either party's go-it-alone approach when it comes to our deficit and debt. and i'd add a corollary to all that we need to reassure our capital markets that the paper they bought is actually worth what they paid for it. it was in i think spar of getting to a solution that likt that my colleague from nebraska, mike johanns, a republican and i wrote a letter to the president, 64 members of the senate evenly divided between both parties signed on to an approach that called for entitlement reform, called for tax reform, called for discretionary spending cuts. the math compels this answer. the economy needs this certainty. colorado and the country want this result. it should achieve the $4.5 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years and should have a 3-1 ratio of spending cuts to
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revenue increases. that's what the bowles-simpson commission recommended. but our political system seems intent on thwarting an approach supported by senators in both parties, and both parties seem willing to submit to that flawed spls perverse incentives and while i am dwins convinced that many in this body and in the house would actually like to make this deal, these interests distort the conversation into a partisan war and rip it apart from the inside. on one side some advocate for no changes to the medicare program. on the other, for no changes to revenue. yet these are among the two biggest drivers of our long-term debt and everybody knows it. only in washington could people pretend that significant deficit reduction could be accomplished while ignoring the two biggest fiscal challenges that we face. i'm a former school superintendent, and what that
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tells me is that washington has a severe math problem. we're in need of remediation. when it comes to a solution on the debt, the contrast between washington dysfunction and colorado common sense could not be clearer. yesterday i had a call with colorado business leaders who span the i the id yow logical sk spectrum. despite their differing party afilliations, there was clearly a consensus that everything needed to be on the table when it comes to the debt, including both tax revenue and entitlement changes. but somehow this common sense gets lost in the current debate. if changes to entitlement are off the table, we as leaders will fail. if changes in revenue are off the table, we as leaders will fail. and i turn to the american people watching this debate with worry or disgust and say if
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challenges to our ideological beliefs or to the politics that historically define our debate are off the table, then as a generation, we cannot meet the challenges we face and we're not going to be able to support the aspirations we have for our kids and our grandkids. this is really about courage, courage on the part of democrats who know that refusing to touch medicare is an argument that we could win, but that the price of winning that argument might be losing america's ability to pay its bills. courage on the part of republicans who know that revenues are unpopular but who secretly understand that we can't simply cut our way out of this budget hole. and in a moment of such crisis, this should be the least americans can expect of us. during the worst recession since the great depression, madam president, it was my
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privilege to spend the last two and a half years traveling my state while we were going through this horrible economic turmoil. americans and coloradoans have made gut-wrenching decisions in their personal lives about where to send their children to school, how and where to live, what medicines they can afford and what medicines they might hope to live without. local officials have been held accountable to citizens for the decisions that they have had to make. the congress has struggled to reflect the ideals and aspirations of the people we represent. this d.c. political culture serves special interests, but it doesn't even register the needs of coloradoans. no business would sacrifice the economic interests of its shareholders because the ones that do are gone. no mayors in colorado would threaten their bond rating for political ideology.
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not one. it wouldn't occur to one of them to threaten their credit rating because mothers and fathers and taxpayers and everyday citizens would have their heads, and rightfully so. i think the difference is that no special interest stands between a colorado local government official and the people he or she represent. having served in local government, i have to say that what often seems to be an unattainable stphrard for a -- standard for a high officeholder is life in the real world for the rest of us. last week we came to washington to cast a series of inconsequential votes but by the end of the week some of us were encouraged by the talk coming from the president and speaker. my friend came to the floor referencing a "wall street journal" that called for a far more comprehensive and far-reaching plan. but now we learn that a comprehensive deal feels once again out of reach.
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we're told we'll have to settle for something small, that one more time kicks the can down the road, that taxes and entitlements are just too hard for washington politics. i may not have spent enough time yet here to see through these political games. this may all be part of an elaborate strategy to get to "yes" but i shudder when i wonder what investors and creditors and the american people think this have political game of chicken. unlike congress, they don't conduct their business with winks and nods and they solve their problems before they become insurmountable, all of which brings me back to our founders and the political leadership of other generations past who made these enormously difficult decisions. as for us, we've chosen to put them off time after time and now we're at an inflection point where we need to get this done. we have a $1.5 trillion deficit
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and almost $15 trillion in debt. revenue is at a 60-year low, and spending is at over a 60-year high. and we have the path to begin to bridge this, the simpson-bowles commission has given us that path forward. and i'm the first to say -- and i should say -- that this debt is something is that we all own. i voted for things that contributed to it, as have all of my colleagues. and in all the things that kpraoeupls the debt -- comprise the debt there is something each in this great nation wants or need. so to be clear, let anybody -- if anybody thinks that this is merely an attack on the institution, we need to understand that this massive debt is something for which we are all responsible, those who voted to fight the wars and to pass the tax cuts did so as a reflection of what they believe was a moment of truth. these decisions were not made in a vacuum.
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we got here because we aspire to be a society that's better than our competitors. we're all responsible. we're all responsible for the crisis that we're in. but the inflection point we've reached has thro*ed a different mandate -- led to a different mandate, a different moment of truth. the american people are asking us to lead. this is a country of patriots of incredibly courageous people who take on challenges little and big every day. i have tremendous respect for my colleagues and for this institution, and i am well aware that until about six months ago i had never even been elected dogcatcher. so i recognize how much i have to learn. but clearly, clearly we are not living up to the standard of courage that past generations of leaders and every generation of ordinary americans has set for us. congress is certainly not living up to the standard that the people of colorado and of this country expect from us.
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madam president, i wonder if maybe we've looked at this the wrong way. the president has put entitlement cuts on the table, and that's the right thing to do. i encourage him to do more. as for the question of revenue, i'll tell any politician this is not the time to be wedded to the status quo. there's nothing magical about current revenue levels, about our tax code or about all the loopholes and special interest perks that we account for only by borrowing more and more money. but there's something else important to mention, which is also lost in the debate. we have waged two long and costly wars, and i don't want to relitigate today the wisdom of going to war. my colleagues in the senate and in the house, many of whom are still here in congress, had to cast difficult votes to send our young men and women into harm's way. but regardless of your position, for our against, congress ultimately made a decision to layer those costs on top of our
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current budget. we did this instead of accounting for them as part of our annual expenses. that was the decision that congress made, and it began our slide from surplus to deficit. so for a moment, let's separate the costs of these wars from the important and robust debate we're having about entitlement spending: medicare, social security and our discretionary program, and resolve a threshold question, or maybe two. are we as a generation going to pay for these wars? or are we going to continue to borrow from foreign governments and stick our kids with the bill? are we even willing to make just a down payment on their incremental costs? because that's what we're talking about here. the amount outlined by the deficit commission, $785 billion in tax reform, which, by the way, would lead to lower rates, doesn't even cover the incremental expense of the war
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commitments we have made, but it would be a good start. are we willing to walk away from this moment and say we've put the burden of fighting and dying in these wars on our sons and daughters and at the same time leave the burden of paying it to our grandchildren? and after all, are we really willing to threaten the full faith and credit of the united states by failing to raise the debt ceiling for debts we already owe? this is not like cutting up your credit card. this is like getting your mortgage this month and saying i'm not going to pay it because i spent my money somewhere else. are we really willing to do that by failing to act comprehensively against our debt at a moment of global fragility in the capital markets? would we risk all of this just for politics? interestingly enough, in their wisdom, the founders understood
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and anticipated this very problem. they had a spirited debate about whether the federal government should have what they called -- quote -- "a general power of taxation or whether we should have a system of -- quote -- "internal and external taxation," a system where the states could impose taxes but the federal government would be limited to collecting its revenue through duties on imports. and ultimately the founders resolved the question in favor of the general power of taxation for the exact reasons that are staring us in the face today. so rather than talk about the founders, i actually want to read what they said on this subject in the hopes that it will give us some guidance. let me quote from federalist number 30, and i apologize for the length, madam president, but as always their words impoverish our own. quote -- if the opinions of those who contend for the distinction between internal and external taxation were to be received as evidence of truth,
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one would be led to conclude that there was some known point in the economy of national affairs at which it would be safe to stop and say, thus far ends -- thus far the ends of public happiness will be promoted by supplying the wants of government and all beyond this is unworthy of our care or anxiety." but they went on to say, "let us attend to what would be the effects of this situation in the very first war in which we should happen to be engaged. we will presume for argument's sake that the revenue arriving from the end post duties answers the perversion for the provision of public debt. thus, circumstance or war breaks out. what would be the probable conduct of the government in such an emergency? taught by experience that proper dependence could not be placed on the success of requisitions unable by its own authority to lay hold of fresh resources and
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urged by considerations of national danger, would it not be driven to the expedient of diverting the funds already appropriated from their proper objects to the defense of the state? it is not easy to see how a step of this kind could be avoided. and if it should be taken, it is evident that it would prove the destruction of public credit at the very moment it was becoming essential to the public safety. to imagine that such a credit crisis might be dispensed with would be the extreme of infatuation. in the modern system of war, nations the most wealthy are obliged to have recourse to large loans. a country so little op lent as ours must feel this necessity in a much stronger degree. but who would lend to a government that prefaced its
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overtures for borrowing by an act which demonstrate that had no reliance, that no reliance could be placed on the steadiness of its measures for paying? the loans it might be able to procure would be limited in its extent, as burdensome in their conditions. they would be made upon the same principles that users commonly lend to bankrupt and fraudulent debtors with a sparing hand and enormous premiums. i'm going to paraphrase that in a minute. it is almost as though alexander hamilton, who wrote these words in 1787, were sitting here today and from the bottom of my heart, i wish that he were. he closed "the federalist" paper number 30 with an admonition to idealogue writing that -- quote -- "such men must behold the actual situation of their country with painful solicitude and deprecate the evils which a ambition or revenge might with
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too much facility inflict upon it. as we have at other times in our history, we experience the kind of evils that hamilton anticipated on 9/11. we responded. and now at this extraordinary time it is left for us to get our house in order. and in truth, madam president, these are small decisions when we consider them in the context of what our founders faced. their greatness is measured by the large tasks they took on and conquered. ours is merely a junction between our own institutional impulse toward fecklessness and our individual love for our country and for our kids. when faced with similar decisions, families cut back, they sacrifice. and now we must do the same. and now, to paraphrase hamilton, the last thing we need to do now is act in a way that jacks up our interest rates. the 100 of us who are here in the senate didn't create the system we operate in.
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none of us decided it would be fun to have special interest groups scoring our every move or lobbyists houpbgd us about this -- hounding us about this or that tiny little provision or television channels reducing everything we do and say to a story line of endless minute conflict. i understand what the incentives are here. it's possible that we could fail and get away with blaming somebody else. it's possible that cutting off our nose to spite our face could be a smart political move in this insane system. but there's a reason that we venerate the founders and lincoln and the great legislative and executive figures of the last century. they were great not only because of what history threw at them but because of the way they threw themselves at history. they raised their hands. they showed real courage, not only when they had to but when they didn't. they made themselves of use.
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the founders were practical people. dare i say it, madam president, practical politicians searching for an ideal that became the united states of america, and they created in their practicality what lincoln called the last best hope of earth. think of that. think of our actual history, not a cartoon, and imagine that we stumbled, not because the founders in their time failed to form a union but because in our time we failed to act as one. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor.
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i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the
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a senator: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: madam president, i think it's fair to say we've got two really major problems that we are grappling with here in this congress. mr. toomey: more importantly, the people all across our country are grappling with them. first is an economy that's far too weak, growing far too slowly, if at all, and it's certainly producing far too few jobs. the lat latest data is particuly discouraging on the job creation front, and until we turn this around and get strong growth, we're not going to produce nearly the number of jobs that we need. the second big problem that strikes me as very disturbing is the unsustainable level of federal spending and the corresponding deficits and debt that have mounted as a result of all that spending. spending since the year 2000,
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ft:bot-2 to 2010, has -- from the year 2,000 has doubled -- from the year 2000-2010, has doubled, federal spending. it used to be 20% of our total economic output. today it's 25% of our total economy. that's just way tarnlg and that'too large andthat's unsust. all this spending has led to predictable huge deficits. all these deficits are nearly 10% of our entire economy, really staggering in size, $1.5 trillion the last couple years running. and the deficits, of course, are covered by issuing new debt, and so we have been accumulating debt on this really a breakneck pace. and, of course, all of this debt has caused us to crash into our debt limit and we are now mired in this debate and this discussion and these ongoing
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very difficult negotiations over what to do about the fact that we have reached the statutory ceiling on the amount of money that the federal government is permitted by law to borrow, $14.3 trillion, a number that's really very, very difficult to grasp because of its sheer enormity. but there we are. we're at the limit and we've got to decide what we're going to do about it. i -- i have to say i'm not impressed with where the current negotiations seem to be and where they have been. i think we have yet to see a plan from the president that lays out exactly what he's willing to cut in spending to put us on a sustainable path. the president proposed a budget. i sit on the budget committee. we looked at that budget. we had testimony about that budget. and what we learned was it's not a serious budget. it would continue with huge deficits and mounting debt, didn't address any of the
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fundamental problems. and when that budget was on the senate floor for a vote, the president's budget got zero votes. the president subsequently backed away from his own budget but hasn't proposed an alternative. and unfortunately my colleagues in this chamber on the other side have proposed no budget whatsoever. so here we are, the world's largest enterprise, the united states government, preparing to spend this year, as we did last year, something on the order of $3.7 trillion without so much as a blueprint for how we're going to spend that, rules that would govern how it gets allocated in different categories, guideline forces -- guidelines for where the revenue is going to come from, how big the deficit will be. none of that. we're simply proceeding along without a budget, and i have to say i think that is shockingly irresponsible. now we go into these discussions about the debt limit and, frankly, it's not clear to me that we're any closer today to a
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resolution than we were several weeks ago. so some of us have suggested a solution, suggested a way out of this impasse that i wanted to describe today, madam president, and the solution that we're proposing is that we go ahead and raise the debt limit by the amount that the president has asked. many of us are not particularly enthusiastic about that but we acknowledge that failure to do so will at some point in presumably early august result in a considerable disruption and a partial government shutdown, will not result on a default on our debt, and there are many, many of our ongoing expenses we could continue to cover from ongoing tax revenue, but it would, nevertheless, be very disruptive. it's my hope that we will never get there and that we will instead find a resolution. the resolution that some of us are proposing -- specifically senator mike lee from utah, who i credit a great deal for his
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leadership on this. senator lee and i have introduced the bill together along with a number of other colleagues. i think we have over 25 cosponsors in the senate. and it's based on an idea which we call the cut, cap and balance. we would agree to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion, as the president has requested, provided that we get ourselves on a path to a balanced budget. and by that, we see three piec pieces: cuts in immediate spending, caps, statutory caps in spending over the next few years, and a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, which we acknowledge would take several years to achieve. but the point is the combined effect of these measures would clearly put us on a path to a balanced budget, end the practice of running deficits, eventually end the need to raise debt limits because we wouldn't be issuing new debt. we would, instead, as a government be living within our means. if you ask me, this is a very reasonable thing to do, to
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suggest that the federal government ought to live within its means. it's reasonable for families. families don't have any choice. they live within their means. businesses have to live within their means or they don't survive. 49 of the 50 states have a requirement that they balance their budgets every year and they find a way to do it. you know, this president wouldn't be the first democratic president to embrace this if he were to united states this idea. president clinton, working with a republican-controlled congress in the 1990's, first embraced the idea that we ought to strive for a balanced budget, that it was a worthwhile goal, that it was an achievable goal, and within a few years, in fact, they achieved it. two different parties working together, not always enjoying each other's company as much as one might like, but the fact is they got it done. and i think that we ought to consider using that model today. you know, as recently as 2007, we were actually quite close to
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a balanced budget. our deficit was just over 1% of our total economy, as opposed to today, where it's nearly 10% of our total economy. and, by the way, i fully acknowledge that we can't get there overnight, as much as any of us would like to. we've dug a deep hole. we're borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar we spend. and it would be too sudden and draconian to think that we could balance that budget overnight. and so we've suggested a path that might take eight or nine or ten years to actually reach a balance but it would surely put us on a path that would get us there. and that would be enormously constructive, not only in the sense that it would assure the long-term fiscal viability of our country, which is, in and of itself, an absolutely vital goal, but it would also create some certainty in the market, reduce the risk of huge inflation and huge interest rates and the other dangers that accompany irresponsibly large deficits and in the process help to encourage stronger economic
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growth and job creation. i think we ought to be flexible in how we get there. we've proposed one way. it's not the only way to do it but it's -- but it importantly is premised on this principle that we can reach a balance and we ought to do that. i think it's absolutely critical that we demonstrate that we have the political will and the ability to tackle this arguably the biggest challenge that we face. you know, we've seen what's been unfolding in europe because they chose not to tackle these problems in recent years. i would suggest that we're not that far behind. some of the countries in europe that are in the middle of truly devastating sovereign debt crises. we're not cite there yet. but if we don't -- we're not quite there yet. but if we don't change the direction we're on, that is the path we're heading. let me just walk through the particular items in this approach that we're advocating in which we would cut, cap and balance.


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